Too much sugar — What you can do to protect your child

Saving your child from too much sugar.

Have you ever wondered why all kids seem to have a craving for sugar? Or why sugary cereals, candies, and juices spend truckloads of money advertising to little tykes?

Studies show that a child’s sweet tooth may be biological — hardwired into their taste buds from day one. That’s why many babies reach for sweet fruits and grains when they are introduced to solid foods.

Why is this a problem?

It is no secret that too much sugar can be harmful to the health of children and adults alike, but what harm can it really do?

  • Tooth decay – Sugary foods help feed the bacteria that cause cavities.
  • Weakened immunity – Too much sugar consumption has been linked to altering the balance between “good” and “bad” bacteria within the body — potentially leaving the body susceptible to frequent colds.
  • Obesity – Just like adults, too much sugar can lead to serious weight gain. Being overweight can eventually lead to numerous health risks down the road.
  • Diabetes – While sugar doesn’t directly cause diabetes, a high-sugar diet can increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.

Doing your part to protect them.

Realistically, your kids are probably going to eat some sugar whether you want them to or not. Even if your home is completely devoid of sugar, your kids still have grandma’s house, sleepovers, ball games, and school to find something sweet to eat.

There are 4 simple things you can do to help them live as sugar-free as possible.

1. Lead by example.

It’s hard to tell anyone to do something if you yourself don’t follow your rules. Eat a balanced diet around your kids so that they can pick up on your good habits.

2. Don’t forget the drinks.

Soda is the obvious culprit in this list, but there are many other drinks that are jam-packed with sugar. Sports drinks, smoothies, and even juices are filled with sugar. Water is the best option for hydration. If they don’t like how water tastes, try adding fruit slices.

3. Study food labels.

Large quantities of sugar can hide in the most unlikely foods such as ketchup and white bread. Take the time to check the nutrition labels before buying. If sugar is among the first few ingredients listed, consider other options.

4. Control food portions.

A little sugar might not hurt, but it can be hard to limit yourself to just a little. This may be especially true for kids. Keep dessert and snack portions under control so that overindulging won’t be a temptation.

Ellen Tessmann, APN CPNP is a nurse practitioner at Erlanger’s Children’s Hospital specializing in Pediatric Endocrinology. To make an appointment with any one of our Pediatric Endocrinologists, call 423-778-6405 or find a doctor here.